The terms Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) are often used interchangeably. ADHD is the more modern term of the two and can be either with hyperactivity and impulsivity or without. Some clinicians and clients still use the term ADD to refer to the condition without hyperactivity or impulsivity present, but just know that you can have ADHD and not have any signs or symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity.
Now that we’ve cleared up the terminology, we can talk about what ADHD is, and what it is not. ADHD can be a misleading name as having ADHD does not mean one has a slow brain or a brain that can not focus. In fact, it means instead that one’s brain is moving so much more quickly than other’s that it is constantly taking in a lot of different information. Because of this, people with ADHD can notice things many of their peers miss and can be more creative in their thinking and also have more charisma, energy, liveliness, and unique humor. Having ADHD can be difficult, yes, but in learning to manage the negative aspects, it can be a unique set of characteristics and traits that are a strength.
The negative aspects (the parts that get all the attention) are the symptoms that we use to make a diagnosis and are the focus of treatment. These include difficulty focusing, excessive distractibility, reacting too quickly without thinking through consequences, and restlessness. These symptoms can lead one to underachieve at school or work and also have difficulty in relationships. People with ADHD often have creative ideas, but have difficulty putting these ideas into action or carrying them through to completion. They may be inconsistent in their ability to perform, have difficulty with time management, and trouble organizing their things. The good news is, all of these difficulties are skills that can be taught. Clinicians can work with children and adults with ADHD to break down goals into small, distinct, manageable steps as part of an overall action plan to take advantage of the creativity that lies beneath.